NICE Metcalf



Based in Bozeman, Montana, Mystery Ranch has had a decade’s long heritage in hunting. Our Internal Frames from the old Dana Design Terraplanes in the 80’s and 90’s to the NICE Frame systems we have today, share a robust framing that controls the outlandish loads required to pack in a camp or pack out a trophy. Carrying unreasonable loads in unreasonable terrain and circumstances is second nature to us, around the world and in the backcountry of Montana. The progression of MR hunting packs, based off our military influences, moderated and edited by Mark Seacat and our in-house crew of hunters, has ultimately landed us here with the lightest weight NICE Frame pack we’ve ever made. Introducing the NICE Metcalf.

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Kyle Christenson on designing the Metcalf:

At Mystery Ranch design is a communal ongoing process. We strive to wow our customers by integrating their ingenuity and feedback directly into our products.  Our direct sales approach gives us immediate access to those who use the product creating a tight feedback loop for development.  The NICE Metcalf in no exception, as it has been developed by hunters that not only use our gear, but use it hard!  The NICE Frame was selected as platform for a mid-sized hunting pack but only if we could incorporate two major requirements.  Light weight and increased frame height on the NICE Frame have resonated amongst the hunting community for some time how, so each was to be addressed as critical criteria.  To accomplish a lightweight NICE Frame out first comparative analyses was to the NICE Longbow, our lightest NICE bag to date.  Through critical examination of access and internal pockets, we concluded that a significant amount of weight could be reallocated to framing if we removed several layers of fabric and zipper from the pocket structure.  A top loading pack with a full length access zipper maintains the needed functionality, and saves the necessary weight to address framing.  With a new look at materials and construction, pure carbon stays were introduced for an integrated frame extension. This combination of new materials and simplified features have come together to create our best hunting product yet.

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Mark Seacat on developing the Metcalf:

We’ve been working on the development side of the Metcalf pack for a couple years. In order for a hunting prototype pack to make it to “Product” status at Mystery Ranch, there has to be EXTENSIVE field testing. We built six prototype bags, for six of our best development guys. Steven Drake, Adam Foss, Kiviok Hight, Kurt Rued, Mark Seacat,and Bobby Warner all put Metcalfs to use exclusively this year. These guys had incredible seasons. From the Mackenzie Mountains in the NWT, the high country in Colorado, and eleven different mountain ranges here in Montana, these packs were put to the test. Dall Sheep, Mountain Goats, Mule Deer, Antelope, Yukon Moose, Mountain Caribou, and Elk were all packed out by these guys using the Metcalf… The resounding feedback… “The Metcalf is the best Mystery Ranch pack I’ve ever used.”



Luke Buckingham on the extension:

To tame the unruliest loads, it helps to have a little more frame. So we added a frame extension to the Metcalf which gives you 3” of additional height beyond the top of the NICE Frame. Two carbon fiber bars integrate with the existing structure of the NICE Frame to provide a little extra lift off the shoulder pads and to allow the bulk of the load to rest on your hips.
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Named after the 254,000 acre Lee Metcalf Wilderness just south of our home in Bozeman Montana, this is the lightest weight pack available for the NICE Frame. From day trips to week long adventures, the Metcalf does it all. The Metcalf incorporates both a Top Loading shroud design coupled with a full-length side access zipper entry. Eight compression straps on the main bag ensure your load isn’t going to shift… regardless of load weight. Fully loaded with the included NICE Lid the bag reaches 4500 cubic inch capacity. Full compressed, you won’t even know it’s there. It’s the perfect combination of heavy duty load-hauler and lightweight hunting pack. As always, we utilized 500D cordura and our time tested sewing standards to withstand the abuse of hauling boned out meat, or full bone-in elk quarters, season after season. For the ounce-counting backpack hunter, the Metcalf easily handles your food, camp, and equipment for a week long wilderness mission.

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  1. fritz schellgell
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Just purchased a Metcalf. In looking at how the pack will work for carrying load, ie Meat Quarters, I am a bit concerned. If you look at the picture of the guy in the snow carrying a Quarter above, there is no bottom support for the quarter. It appears that from the catalog, there are to be two straps across the bottom, but my guess is that in use the straps will move to each side allowing the Quarter to drop down or out.

    In looking at the Nice Frame there are two female buckles middle height that could take two straps. Believe these hold the load sling from the videos. If you add two straps to the Nice Frame and cross them, connecting them to the bag, it would create a “sling” to support the quarters.

    Make sense? Or am I missing something.

    Otherwise, love the Pack. Very comfortable.


    • Steven Drake
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      Hey Fritz! That’s a great question! The short and simple is that there are 8 different compression straps coming from the bag to the NICE Frame. Two on top, two on bottom and two on each side. When you strap a quarter(s) between the bag and frame the 8 compressions straps, all equipped with Autolock buckles, squeeze down and hold the meat securely in place. In the two years of testing this pack we found that the meat is so securely fastened that the bottom two compression straps aren’t always necessary. Of course, we left them there for good measure… A good method for loading meat in the meat shelf is to keep the bottom straps sucked up more than the rest as to taper the load. This will prevent any issues with loosing meat out the bottom.

      If you have any questions regarding this pack don’t hesitate to contact me at



      • michael ormandy
        Posted July 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        Does the ‘meat shelf’ expand far enough to fit nice load cells for packing in extra gear?

        • Ryan Holm
          Posted July 15, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          Hey Michael,

          Yes, This feature stems from the NICE Longbow design. So, you can fit extra load cells or game bags between the bag and the frame.

          Another option, If you need extra space, accessories like the Daypack lid and Long Pockets help with hauling extra sustainment gear allowing more room for meat in the main compartment.

          If you have any further questions, please contact customer service @ 406-585-1428. Thanks!

  2. Tim H.
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I recently received the Metcalf pack, and I cannot say enough good things about the design, quality and overall spot-on form and function.

    As a diehard Longbow user/fan, the Metcalf fills the gap between the Longbow and the 6500 or Kodiak; one being a bit too small for 3+ day hunts and the other just too large or when going light, as during the early season.
    At 4500 cu. inches fully loaded, this pack works for 90% of the hunting I do, from early season archery elk trips (3-5 days) or even longer if necessary. The streamlined main pack and internal zippered pocket are all you need. I like to use superlight stuff sacks to organize key pieces of gear: first aid/survival kit in one, water filter/extra Platypus bag in another, game bags/paracord/flagging in another, etc. Everything is easy to reach through the main side zip.
    Also, this is a perfect ‘day pack’ without the lid, allowing you to go in with the necessary gear for the day, and pack out an entire boned out deer if need be. I can’t wait to use it again for the upcoming rifle season here in MT. Great work Mystery Ranch!

  3. Todd Russell
    Posted March 2, 2014 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    I have a 6500 and a Crewcab. Looking at the Metcalf because the Crewcab doesn’t quite fill my sheep hunting needs and the 6500 isn’t perfect until I fill it( which is hard). I want to sell the Crewcab and buy a Metcalf but I love the long pockets on the Crewcab! All that shows on accessories is the 300 cu in rip zips. Can I use the long pockets with the Metcalf?
    Dedicated MR Hunter

  4. Nelson
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking about METCALF without daypack. How is it to rain (waterproof)?

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